Scripture: Lectionary 377. Genesis 18:16-33. Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 10-11. Matthew 8:18-22:
Chapters 12-24 are the work of a writer who is called the Yahwist. The reason for this title is that the narratives of these parts of Genesis use the sacred name of God “Yahweh” (the tetragrammaton) throughout the chapters dedicated to Abraham. Today’s event in the life of Abraham happens just before God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah whose sins are so great that God’s justice will intervene. Abraham intercedes on behalf of the people of these two cities and we, as the reader, enter into the prayer of Abraham by listening to the narrative and discourse between God and Abraham. The remarkable style of the Yahwist is so attractive and descriptive that we are able to enjoy the entire story of Abraham and even to be privy to his pleading in prayer with God who is evidently his most close and intimate friend.
Persistence in prayer is amply demonstrated in this passage. Abraham, though respectful of God his friend, is also bold in his intervention for the sinful people. He starts with a type of bargaining by asking God to forgive them if fifty just persons are found. Five more times, Abraham keeps the countdown to persuade God: forty-five just persons; then forty, thirty, twenty, and finally an end to the intercession with ten (a mignon necessary for prayer in the synagogue). Abraham then realizes that the sky is not the limit nor the countdown so he quietly listens to the will of God and moves back to his home after such strong persistence in his prayer.
We, too, are often persistent in our prayers when we want something real bad. We make promises and may even barter with the Lord in thinking we can win God’s favor by our insistence. But do we go as far as Abraham and then patiently keep silence and allow God our friend to do what God wants? By being persistent and reverent like Abraham we are led to become aware that God may be saying no to us while doing something that will bring about a closer intimacy between ourselves and God. Our persistence should lead us to union with God and awareness that God is our Creator and Redeemer and is more than a friend. We may need to learn from the five stages of Abraham’s prayer of petition that there is room for one more—that we do the will of the Father as Abraham did and as Jesus does. Abraham’s prayer led him to be conformed to God’s will by his listening, his silence, and his return to h is home after prayer. He realized what God’s will was and lived with it. Do we realize that God often answers our prayers with a no? Amen.
Morning Prayer for Monday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time